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Do Texas Drive-Through Liquor Stores Lead to Drunk Driving?

A recent drunk driving accident in Gregg County has left Texas lawmakers wondering whether the state should ban drive-through liquor stores. Currently, Texas is among several states that allow customers to purchase packaged alcoholic drinks from drive-up windows at liquor stores and convenience stores.

Some people worry that a drive-through window encourages customers to engage in drunk driving. In the Gregg County crash, the suspect had a blood alcohol content of 0.20 and was found with more than 100 opened and unopened cans of beer in his vehicle. The evidence suggested that he had purchased two 30-packs of beer from drive-up windows that day, and may have spent most of the day driving around and drinking.

The crash left one person dead and another paralyzed. Ultimately, the driver was convicted of both intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault. He received a sentence of 18 years in prison on the manslaughter charge and 10 years for the assault.

Texas Drinking and Driving

The victims’ families have brought a civil lawsuit against the store that sold beer to the driver, breathing new life into the debate over Texas’ drive-through liquor store model.

Defenders of the stores say that a drive-through saves customers time, and that it is really no different from going inside the store to purchase alcohol. If a customer is going to decide to drink and drive, he or she can do that just as easily with alcohol purchased from inside.

Of course, drinking and driving is a crime. In addition, Texas has an “open container” law that makes it a crime to have an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment of a vehicle. The law applies not only to open cans of beer or other ready-to-drink beverages, but also to bottles of alcohol on which the seal has been broken.

Violation of any of Texas’ drinking and driving laws can result in serious criminal penalties, even if no traffic accident occurs.

Source: USA Today, “Concern over drive-up alcohol sales spurs efforts at ban,” Alison Bath, July 10, 2012.